I didn’t realize that I had totally forgotten to talk about point cards! Which is funny, because they’re ever-present for a lolita shopper (or any shopper!) in Japan.
Point cards are not only a way to earn incentives for spending money at a particular shop, they’re a sort of status symbol as well (they also have the unfortunate side effect of being a tangible gauge for how much you have spent on new merchandise). Generally you aren’t offered a point card until you have shopped at a particular brand several times, unless you buy a substantial amount the first time you go. I’ve never tried asking for a point card at a lolita brand shop, but I imagine they wouldn’t say no to you; I’ve asked in any number of other stores and been favourably received, though most places want you to get a point card the very first time you buy something.
You usually get one point per a specified amount of money spent at the store; for example, Angelic Pretty is 1 point per 3000 yen, and Baby is 1 point per 5250. Innocent World is the “most expensive”, so to speak, card that I have, with each point a steep 10,000 yen. The number of points required before you reach the goal also depends on the brand, usually between 15 and 20, sometimes as many as 30. The prize that you’re working toward is that the cards become coupons once they’re filled up– again, each brand is a little different, but for example AP’s cards are worth 3000 yen off of any amount, while Baby’s are worth 3000 off any purchase that costs more than 6000; Meta’s is a great deal: 5000 yen off any purchase plus a novelty item. In some cases, if you’re lucky enough to have a full or close-to-full card, brands will have novelty fairs wherein you can exchange your card for limited edition items instead of cash off.
Personally I think AP’s cards are the most customer-friendly– most brands give no credit for amounts that do not total up to a full point (several times I’ve been chagrined to discover that I am a few hundred yen short of another point at Baby), but AP simply writes the excess amount on the card and that’s added to your next visit’s total, so you never lose out. For once AP is on the customer’s side!
I also have to admit that point cards sometimes give me a bit of an elite feeling. My Baby card, for example, has a lovely number 4 written in a large block on the top of it, meaning that I’ve filled 3 full cards already. A card like that earns a little nicer treatment from the staff of any Baby shop when they see it. (Being a regular customer in Nagoya of course warrants a high level of customer care, but in stores where I’m not known, the little card says: I understand and love this style and am a loyal customer.)
Personally I think point cards are a great little benefit, especially for such an expensive fashion as lolita; but actually you can get point cards anywhere– from Tower Records to the discount cosmetics shops to the consignment shops! It’s fun to rack up points but for people like me, I tend to want to spend a little extra to make sure I always get the most points possible… it’s dangerous!